This may be a first for ChurchMag: I’m writing this article from the hospital room where my wife is about to give birth to our first child!
Being a pastor, I’m no stranger to hospitals. But whenever you get to experience things from the other end you notice all kinds of things you otherwise wouldn’t have. And so it got me thinking: going to the hospital can be a lot like visiting a church for the first time.
Being first time parents, we were understandably nervous about the whole experience. We took a brief tour of the wing before hand, but it was so quick and staff-led that it did little to assuage our fears. As soon as you walk in, a rush of emotions hit you, and it seems that all eyes are on you.
When we got on the elevator, the receiving staff person (greeter) ushered us into the elevator, pressed the button and got back off with a quick, suppressed “good luck”. And then we were left to our own. My wife immediately found the connection to something more concrete, as she said,
“It’s like Hunger Games! May the odds be ever in your favor!”
That connection stuck with us as things ramped up. When a first-time visitor comes to a church, they will probably do the same (although maybe not with Hunger Games). People naturally look for anything familiar when in an unknown situation. And the image they draw and the story they create for themselves will influence how they experience their visit. Give them something familiar before they make it up for themselves.
Then We Came Back
We came in around 8pm, and they started asking questions and doing their thing. The nurse was very kind and did her best to calm us down by telling us about her experience (she gave birth 3 months ago) . This was VERY helpful. Greeters (and everybody really) should be ready to recount their experience when first visiting the church, combining humor with practical advice and reassuring words.
Twice in the middle of the night the I.V. stopped working and started sending out a shrieking beep that would not end. We were just trying to get through the night with a couple hours of sleep before things ramped up in the morning. Both times I went out to the nurses station and told them about it, and was told they would get our nurse. Both times they did not pass the message along and 20-30 minutes later it was still going on when our nurse came in for her regular checkup. She apologized, but the damage had been done. When making promises to anyone, but especially first-time guests, always, always, always follow through! A “sorry” later on doesn’t help much when the first impression gets formed. And when it happens twice, the sorry looks like hollow words. (it didn’t help that the nurses at the station were eating and laughing and having a good time).
One thing that was good about the nurses station happened when my wife needed to get up and walk around. I asked one of the nurses how she might do that with the I.V. plugged into the wall. She first began to explain how I could unplug it, then offered to come show me. I expected her to just say,
“I’ll tell your nurse you need her,”
which wouldn’t have been good given the above experience. But she took matters into her own hands. Greeters and staff need to know that if a guest has a question, answer it – and then offer to show them or go with them. It doesn’t matter if that’s not your “assigned post,” be awesome . Visitors don’t care about details like that-they just want to be taken care of and get back to enjoying their experience.
It’s now 5am and still hours away from a baby. Fortunately most church services don’t last that long! I’m sure there’s still plenty of more connections between a hospital visit and a church visit, but I’ll leave that up to you in your comments.
What have I missed?
What else can you think of?
Let us know. And “may the odds be ever in your favor!”
[Editor’s Note: Chris submitted this post to me first thing this morning after writing it just last night.
The ChurchMag Authors Network Yammer channel is anxiously awaiting the news! We’ll pass along the news of Baby Ruddell’s arrival right here! UPDATE: Liam Hughes-Ruddell was born, today, 8lbs. 12oz.!]
[Image via Jcfhospital.com]